VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
As junior enlisted Airmen, responsibilities come in a minimal fashion. While expected to perform the job adequately, these everyday duties rarely reach the same degree of responsibility as those of a higher rank. Those duties change drastically, however, upon promotion to staff sergeant and entry into the non-commissioned officer tier.
During their time in Airman Leadership School, students embark on a 192-hour, 24-day journey designed to develop leadership abilities, an understanding of the profession of arms, and the ability to effectively communicate.
“Our job is to make sure the students are fully prepared and equipped to put on that next rank and become an effective supervisor,” said Staff Sgt. Patricia Folkes, 30th Force Support Squadron ALS instructor.
The ALS instructors believe that open communication is paramount to a NCO’s successful working relationship with their Airmen.
“Number one – you have to have good communication,” said Folkes. “No matter what kind of lesson we’re teaching, somehow it always ties back to communicating with your Airmen, and taking the time to get to know them. A lot of the students are realizing how much time it actually takes to be an effective supervisor. You have to communicate with your Airmen pretty much on a daily basis to know what’s going on.”
That communication begins in the classroom, where students have been learning more about career fields they may have been unfamiliar with before ALS.
“I think it’s really eye-opening for a lot of people to see others from different career fields,” said Staff Sgt. Nadine Hose, 30th FSS ALS instructor. “Sometimes people will just assume certain things about other career fields. At ALS, students get a better look at how important everybody’s job is. It also helps them gather a network of people from across the base in different career fields to reach out for different things in the future.”
Looking back on the first two weeks, the class leader of Class 17-Alpha spoke on his ALS experiences thus far.
“It really does open your eyes to a lot of different things,” said Senior Airman Paul Surprenant, 30th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. “ALS is very challenging, but it really teaches you how to become the NCO you should be. It will test your various skillsets: organization, time management and communication. That’s a huge part of the Air Force – being able to lead and communicate with your Airmen and make them understand the big picture.”
Despite the multitude of changes these new NCOs will immediately face, the instructors at ALS are up to the task of producing the Air Force’s next group of leaders.
“We’re training these students to not only be supervisors, but leaders in general,” said Master Sgt. James Desgrange, 30th FSS ALS commandant. “This is the next generation of leaders. The Air Force needs leaders, and these ALS instructors are the ladies who teach them that.”